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Book Event

2020-2021

 

Poster
David Schley
Hong Kong Baptist University Steam City: Railroads, Urban Space, and Corporate Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore

 

8 Apr 2021 12:00 p.m.
Zoom: https://bit.ly/2Mi3CzK
Meeting ID: 950 2774 2996 / Password: 143904

 

 

The origins of the American railroad lay not in private enterprise but in urban ambition. Eastern cities launched the first railroads in the United States to foster urban growth, and early railroads depended on municipal aid. How, then, did these urban, public improvements become paragons of capitalist power after the Civil War? In this talk, based on my book, Steam City: Railroads, Urban Space, and Corporate Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore (University of Chicago Press, 2020), I argue that we can find an answer to this question in the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, the birthplace of American railroading. As workers laid tracks in Baltimore’s streets and ran locomotives through the city center, railroad executives defined the city as a place of transit, positing that corporations stood outside of municipal officials’ regulatory purview. For the people of Baltimore, the railroad’s expanding influence over the urban environment raised questions about corporate accountability that remain vexing today. The bailouts, tax dodges, and offshoring that characterize capitalism in the twenty-first century have roots in the urban politics of the nineteenth century.

 

David Schley is an assistant professor of history at Hong Kong Baptist University. Steam City is his first book.

 

Co-organized by the Department of History and the Nineteenth-Century Research Cluster, HKU.